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Peak body welcomes Labor move to plug skills shortage gap

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Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) has welcomed Labor’s decision to create Jobs and Skills Australia, a new body to advise government on how to train the workforce and fix skills shortages plaguing the economy.

HVIA’s 2022 Federal Election manifesto, themed A strong heavy vehicle industry – vital for a resilient Australia, set out its priorities across four key areas: safety, manufacturing and productivity, sustainability, and skills and jobs.

The peak transport body also called for streamlined processes for bringing in skilled migrants to address critical skill shortages in the heavy vehicle industry.

HVIA chief executive Todd Hacking said that with the heavy vehicle pipeline ballooning out to near two years in many cases, the lack of skilled labour is a drain on productivity.

“While well-documented supply chain disruptions aren’t helping, the biggest impediment is skilled workforce shortages,” Hacking said.

“The skilled migration system was designed when the unemployment rate was double what it is now and with an unemployment rate at 3.5 per cent – everyone that wants a job, has one.”

HVIA is pushing for 5 practical reforms.  These are:

1. Ensuring the Short-Term Skilled Migration (Visa 482) should include a pathway to permanent residency.

2. Altering the Skilling Australia Fund payment to instalments are after the sponsored employee is in work – reducing the huge upfront cost barrier

3. A current and temporary change in the rigidity of the Labour Market Testing;

4. De-coupling family members from the skilled migration cap; and

5. Greater flexibility in the locality of the sponsored worker, allowing the worker can be placed where the work is and not tied to a specific geography.

“Currently, if the employer used the 482 Visa, and wants the relationship to continue, and the sponsored worker wants to make Australia home, there is no discretion for this to occur,” he said.

By moving the payment of the Skilling Australia Fund, (usually the most expensive fee of the visa process) to the back end of the process, not the front – you reduce the upfront cost substantially.

“This is a simple, practical measure which does not alter the sum of money being paid to the states but would really help reduce the cost barrier,” Hacking added.

Reducing the rigidity of the Labour Market Test – even temporarily, will save three to six months.

Hacking said visas often lock a person into a specific location which prevents employers from utilising the employee based on shifting demand.

“The government needs to also provide additional resources for processing applications and needs to de-couple families, who are currently counted within the cap quotas.

“The government is making great gains in restoring Australia’s place on the international stage, and this is a great opportunity to make it known that we are back to normal and open for business.”

In a statement to HVIA members, Hacking said there is still a big job ahead to educate more elected officials about the scale of Australia’s vital heavy vehicle manufacturing industry.

“While the last few years have gone a long way to building more awareness of the essential role of our industry, more needs to be done to ensure our interests are given appropriate consideration and help – and less red tape.”

Jobs and Skills Australia has a broader remit than the National Skills Commission it is replacing, with an added focus on collaborating with state and territory governments, unions, and training providers.

The Albanese government is also holding a Jobs and Skills Summit at Parliament House in Canberra on September 1-2.

Labor said the themes and outcomes of the summit will inform the Employment White Paper, which will help to shape the future of Australia’s labour market. It will be led by Treasury, which will invite submissions and engage the wider community over the next 12 months.

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